“I have said that I’m the greatest. In truth, only God is the greatest. But no matter what I had chosen to do with my life, with God’s help I believe that I would have been the best at it.” [3. Pg. 140]
If you recall, I had written before about how important self-knowledge is. What is the foundation that you are building your life on and from which you gain strength to face the battle that lies ahead? Many people are attempting to gain strength from ideas that are not made for times of difficulty. For example, how many Americans teach their children, The most important thing in life is to be Happy. That is a terrible foundation for life because it isn’t adequate for the world we live in; a world in which you can do everything right and have everything turn out wrong. Like the farmer who plants good seed, applies the right fertilizer but a drought or flood comes and destroys the crops. Or the person whose spouse leaves them for someone else. Or those people who realize that their pension is gone. Because of a scam they may never be able to afford to retire.
Imagine the poor guy who goes to his doctor and the doctor tells him, “Your tests have come back and I’m sorry to say that you don’t have much time left to live.”
“What do you mean??” he asks.
The doctor looks at his watch and replies, “Ten,”
“Ten!? Ten what? Weeks, Months, Years????”
“Nine,… eight,… seven….”
What do you do when life deals you a hand like that and you cannot believe that you will ever be happy again? Where do you turn, drugs, alcohol, suicide? We live in the real world where life is difficult and the desire to be happy will not give us the strength, we need to face difficult times.
Following the PBS program, This I Believe, Ira Fried decided to write a Five-hundred-word essay describing his core beliefs. Many of his core beliefs came from the Hebrew School he attended when he was twelve years old. Like most adults his core beliefs had evolved since then and were” the culmination of what I learned in school, ideas I have picked up from books, articles, and discussions with friends and my experience dealing with adversity. “[4. Pg. 264] At that time he had real difficulty believing in God and he would say that he was a Jewish Atheist or Agnostic.
One day while power walking, he was listening to Bob Dylan’s album Blood on the Tracks, his favorite Dylan Album. He writes, “I was nearing the end of my walk when I heard the following lines from “Buckets of Rain,” the last song on the album.
“Life is Sad,
Life is a bust,
All you can do is do what you must,
Do what you must do, and you do it well.”
These words hit me like a lightning bolt! They summed up the missing piece of my spiritual belief system – what I need to do to live a meaningful life – more clearly than any words I could compose myself…To me, the first two lines in Dylan’s verse mean you cannot always control what happens in life; sometimes you are lucky enough to have good things happen, sometimes not…But Dylan doesn’t dwell on how bad life can be; he just states it as a fact and accepts it. And I knew this is what I should do, too.”
“Accepting that life can be bad does not mean giving up. Quite the opposite: to me it means trying that much harder to do whatever it takes to make a positive difference…. I must do these things if I am to live a meaningful life – That is the meaning I take from “All you can do is do what you must.” [4. Pg 263]
Fried goes on to say that the verse, “You do what you must do, and you do it well” speaks to the necessity of not just going through the motions. Could you imagine Muhammad Ali just going through the motions in preparation for an upcoming fight? He always gave it all he had, acting like each fight was a matter of life or death. Indeed, for us it might very well be a matter of a longer or shorter life. Which is why we exercise with everything we have inside us. This is no time to put on a show for others, it is time for us to do whatever we can to be a blessing and to leave a legacy of a fighter.
In the last blog I gave a series of quotes from Muhammad Ali’s Autobiography, the Soul of a Butterfly, which demonstrated how important his faith in God was to his ability to fight the fight that was before him. Whether it was the United States Draft Board, the racists in Georgia who threatened to kill him, or whoever was the next opponent in the ring, Muhammad Ali always went to God for direction, strength, and peace. He writes, “If I had not been forced from boxing during the height of my career, I might never have known how strong my faith and beliefs were. The greater our level of understanding, the harder the tests become. The more we master the challenges, the deeper our faith becomes.” [3. Pg. 97]
When Ali speaks about his faith in God he does so from a foundation of Sunni Islam. He writes, “If I were not a Muslim, I would not be the person I am today, and the world would not have known Muhammad Ali.” [3. Pg. 57
The foundation for my life comes from the teachings of Jesus Christ. I have been a member of the Assembly of God, Baptist, Lutheran, and Roman Catholic churches. I often tell people, I am a follower of Jesus and I serve him in the ___________ church. I gain much strength from the Holy Scriptures, prayer, praise, adoration, Holy Communion, and confession. In Nehemiah we read, “The Joy of the Lord is your strength,” and the Psalmist writes, “In the presence of the Lord is joy unspeakable and full of glory.”
Joy is different than happiness, which comes from favorable circumstances. Joy is one of the fruits of the Holy Spirit and will often overflow in a Chrisitan who is going through terrible situations. In his book, Tortured for Christ, Richard Wurimbrandt tells of being beaten and whipped by the Communist leadership in Romania, in their attempts to get information out of him. Afterwards he would return to his cell and the cell door would slam shut behind him. He would begin to pray and watch as the cold gray walls of his cell suddenly glowed with a golden hue, the Holy Spirit would fill him, and he would go from praying to singing songs of praise and he would dance with joy.
To go through this time of loss, I really need the Joy of the Lord. Anger has become a constant companion, ready to express itself at the slightest frustration. It could be because of a continuing problem; I speak, and no one can understand a word that I’ve said. OR I will start a day by writing a list of things to do; a list that I can no longer finish in a week, let alone a day. Really, I could write a page of things that will set me off in a RAGE. To my shame I must admit that I now use language that I didn’t use as a young man working on the assembly line.
Last night, as I was writing this, I had an epiphany. My problem is I am attempting to do all of this in my own strength and with my own determination. I realized what they say in Alcoholics Anonymous is true; “I had to let go and let God.” As St. Augustine said, “You must pray like everything depends on God, and work like everything depends on you. Saint Paul writes to the Ephesians, “Awake O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give you light. “Eph. 5:14
I will write more about my anger in another separate article. in one month I will let you know if I have overcome my negativity.
Building a support and medical team
Muhammad Ali would have never been THE GREATEST if he had tried to do everything on his own. He assembled the best team he could find. They were people from different races, religions, colors, and nationalities. He writes, “My trainer, Angelo Dundee was Italian. Bundini Brown, my Assistant Trainer, was a Black man, but he was Jewish. Gene Kilroy, my camp manager, was White. Ferdie Pancheco, my ring doctor, was Cuban. And Howard Bingham, one of my closest friends is Black and Christian. [3. pg. 60] Ali’s team was made up of people who were honest, trustworthy, and they knew their business. They weren’t afraid to speak bluntly when needed: like his Ring doctor who quit in protest after Muhammad accepted a fight when everyone could see there was something seriously wrong with him. We call people like that straight shooters.
We need to build a good, honest, and trustworthy team around as well. We need doctors who will listen to us. If you’ve read my blog, You Don’t have Parkinson’s!! you know that this is why I left my primary care doctor and went to the one that Joy Fried recommended.
First off, we need someone, a close friend or spouse, or child, who will be our advocate. We all need someone who will watch our back. For Ira Fried that was his wife, Joy. He writes, “Joy is a confidante with whom I can share my deepest fears about my illness. But at the same time she manages to strike a perfect balance helping me when I need it while not allowing me to become dependent on her. She usually recognizes my limitations well before I notice them and am willing to accept them. Hers is the voice that wakes me from denial when it becomes counterproductive. More times than I can count I have had an epiphany about how I can compensate for the limitations my illness imposes only to realize a day or two later that for the past several weeks Joy had been telling me just what I discovered.” [4. Pg. 260]
I have been diagnosed with a number of different diseases which include; Parkinsons, prostate cancer, peripheral neuropathy, and borderline diabetes. Because of this my team is quite large and is made up of my wife Harriet, My Primary Care Doctor, a Neurologist, a Urologist, an Ophthalmologist, a Dentist, people in Parkinson’s support group, and several friends and family members.
While I expect my doctors to be well educated in their various specialties, I also continue to read books, articles, testimonials, and watch presentations on You Tube. I do this so that I can work with my doctors not because I don’t trust them.
Who is on your team? Do you have everyone you should have? Do they listen to your concerns? Do you listen to them?
Would you Believe that t here is going to be ONE MORE BLOG in this series? Next time I will write about Muhammad Alis final fight. It was with Parkinson’s. and like many of us, he was misdiagnosed at first.
I appreciate those of you who continue to pray for Harriet and me. Please be sure that we will continue to pray for you.